Exponential Growth

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Esta breve presentación pretende ayudarlos a comprender el poder de la función exponencial. Si la población, la demanda de petróleo, la oferta de dinero o cualquier otra cosa aumentan con respecto a su proporción actual y dicho crecimiento se expresa mediante un gráfico a lo largo de un período determinado, dicho gráfico adoptará la forma de un palo de hockey.

Dicho de manera más simple, todo aquello que crece porcentualmente a lo largo del tiempo lo hace de forma exponencial.

Para ilustrar el poder del crecimiento exponencial utilizaré un ejemplo tomado de un magnífico trabajo del Dr. Albert Bartlett.

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En el Crash Course aprenderemos algunos conceptos fundamentales. El más importante de todos ellos es el crecimiento exponencial. Una comprensión cabal de este concepto mejorará nuestras posibilidades de vivir un futuro mejor.

He aquí un clásico gráfico que muestra el crecimiento exponencial. Se trata de una curva en forma de “palo de hockey”, que representa una cantidad de algo a lo largo del tiempo. Para que una curva termine pareciéndose a ésta, ese algo que representa debe crecer de forma porcentual a lo largo del tiempo.

Cuanto más lenta sea la tasa porcentual de crecimiento más prolongado será el tiempo que se necesita para que la curva adopte la forma de un palo de hockey.

Otro concepto que debe quedar claro en este gráfico es que una vez que la función exponencial empieza a “repuntar”, incluso si la tasa porcentual de crecimiento se mantiene constante y, posiblemente, bastante baja, las cantidades siguen aumentando cada vez con mayor rapidez.

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You are at the part of the Crash Course where everything you learned comes together into a single chapter. Chapter 19 contains a comprehensive view of how all of our problems are actually interrelated and need to be viewed as such or solutions will continue to elude us.

We will review the key trends, which appear to be converging on a very narrow window of the future. Here is a two-second recap of the key issues. If you have watched all of the videos until this point, you will undoubtedly see how they are connected:

Money, credit, growth. Exponential growth. Debt, future, history. Failure to save. Assets, housing, bubble, financial panic. Demographics, wealth, boomers, falling values. Fuzzy numbers. Energy, oil, growth. Peak Oil. Environment, resources, exploitation, change.

This chapter will connect the dots and beckon us toward the future.

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In Crash Course Chapter 18: The Environment, Chris Martenson explains how multiple essential resources are being depleted at ever faster rates. Our money system requires continual economic growth, but energy depletion will run headlong into dwindling resource returns to limit future growth options. Overpopulation will increase competition and demand for fossil fuel energy sources such as crude oil and coal, as well as for natural gas and sources of alternative energy.

In this chapter, Peak Coal, Peak Uranium, and copper extraction are explored as illustrations challenging long-held assumptions about the inevitable certainty of continued global economic expansion. This chapter makes it easy to understand why careful management of our natural resources will be necessary for our economic and environmental future.

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In theory, there’s nothing problematic with living in a world full of exponential growth and depletion curves – as long as the world does not have any boundaries. However, exponential functions take on enormous importance when they approach a physical boundary, as seems to be the case for oil in the very near future. Both discoveries and production indicate that we could be at oil’s exponential boundary already.

We can make a very strong case that both population and our money system are utterly dependent on the continued expansion of oil energy. But what if our exponentially-based economic and monetary systems, rather than being the sophisticated culmination of human evolution, are really just an artifact of oil? What if all of our rich societal complexity and all of our trillions of dollars of wealth and debt simply are the human expression of surplus energy pumped from the ground?

What will happen to our exponential, debt-based money system? Is it even possible for it to function in a world without constant growth? These are important questions, and they deserve answers.

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Now we enter Part Two of the Crash Course. With the background you’ve received thus far, you are now positioned to understand how the Three “E”s - the Economy, Energy, and the Environment - intersect and seemingly converge on a very narrow window of the future - the Twenty-Teens. The next twenty years are going to be completely unlike the last twenty years.

For you and me, there are only two ways to settle a debt: 1) Pay it off or 2) default on it. If you have a printing press like the government does, a third option exists: 3) Printing money to pay for the debt. So what is debt, really? Debt represents future consumption taken today.

Our entire economic system, and by extension our way of life, is founded on debt, and debt is founded on the assumption that the future will always be bigger than the past. Therefore it is utterly vital that we examine this assumption closely, because if this assumption is false, so are a lot of other critical things that we may be taking for granted.

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In order to understand the urgency I feel about the issues covered in the Crash Course, you need to understand the power of compounding. If something, such as a population, oil demand, a money supply, or anything else steadily increases in size in some proportion to its current size, and you graph it over time, the graph will look like a hockey stick.

Said more simply, if something is increasing over time on a percentage basis, it is growing exponentially. With exponential functions, the action really only heats up in the last few moments. There is simply not a lot of maneuvering room once you hop on the vertical portion of a compound graph.

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In the Crash Course we will learn a few foundational Key Concepts. None is more important than exponential growth. Understanding this will greatly enhance our chances to form a better future.

Once an exponential function “turns the corner,” even though the percentage rate of growth might remain constant and possibly quite low, the amounts do not. They pile up faster and faster.

Oil consumption, the US money supply, world population, worldwide water use, species extinction, and other critical areas all follow an exponential curve in their growth, and all have turned or will soon turn that critical corner.

Taken one at a time, any one of these areas could command the full attention of every earnest person on the face of the planet, but we need to understand that they are, in fact, all related and connected.